The days of blatant and direct disenfranchisement — literacy tests, poll taxes, etc. — might be in the past, but there are still countless Americans who struggle to have their voices heard on Election Day. Indiana’s prison population, which was near 28,000 people as of July 1, 2015, according to the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC), is one group unable to cast a ballot. Indiana could be considered moderate compared to the rest of the country in terms of voting rights for felons. According to ProCon.org, Indiana is among 13 states (and Washington, D.C.) that restore a felon’s voting rights after the offender has served their full prison term.Full Article: Incarcerated, homeless excluded on Election Day - Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper: News.
Voting Blogs: 5th Circuit Decision Could Leave Hundreds of Thousands Without Right to Vote in Texas | Brad Blog
The recent decision by a unanimous three judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeal in Veasey v. Abbott was greeted as “very good news.” After all, it marked the first occasion in which a federal appellate court made an express finding that a state-enacted polling place Photo ID law violated the provisions of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The appellate panel affirmed the lower U.S. District Court’s finding late last year that a Texas polling place Photo ID law (SB 14), which threatened to disenfranchise 608,470 already legally registered voters (and many others not already registered), disparately impacted minorities and the poor. “Hispanic registered voters and Black registered voters,” the 5th Circuit appellate panel observed in their recent ruling, “were respectively 195% and 305% more likely than their Anglo peers to lack [the requisite Photo] ID” now required to cast a vote at the polls under the Texas law.Full Article: Ernest A. Canning | The BRAD BLOG.
As an elected lawmaker and member of Myanmar’s governing party, U Shwe Maung attended dinners with the president and made speeches from the floor of Parliament. But this weekend, the country’s election commission ruled that despite more than four years in office, he was not a citizen and thus was ineligible to run for re-election in landmark voting in November. “I was approved and considered a full citizen in 2010,” he said in an interview on Saturday. “Now, after five years, how could I not be eligible?” Mr. Shwe Maung’s plight is but one example of what appears to be the mass disenfranchisement of the Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority who number around one million in Myanmar.Full Article: Myanmar Lawmaker Barred From Re-election on Citizenship Grounds - The New York Times.
When civil-rights activists converge on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge next Saturday, they’ll have a bigger goal than simply commemorating the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.” The 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, helped secure the passage of the Voting Rights Act. This year, dozens of politicians will be there to join the celebration, and activists hope to persuade them that a better way to honor Selma’s legacy is to extend the legal protections it secured. Thanks to the eponymous Oscar-nominated film, there has been no shortage of remembrances of Selma. This year’s pilgrimage, organized by the Faith and Politics Institute, will command more attention than others have in recent years. Not only will President Obama make the trip, but so will his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, who signed the last renewal of the landmark law in 2006. African American leaders view the bipartisan commemoration as a crucial moment to marshal support and pressure Republican leaders for new voting-rights legislation in Congress.Full Article: Advocates View Selma Pilgrimage As Key Moment in New Voting Rights Push - The Atlantic.
Citing the disenfranchisement of Latinos under Yakima’s current council elections system, a federal judge on Tuesday ordered the city to conduct future elections using seven geographic districts — including two majority Latino districts. Under U.S. District Judge Thomas Rice’s ruling, all seven City Council positions would be placed on the ballot this year and candidates would be elected by voters solely from within their district. Under the ruling, candidates would no longer be voted on citywide. The ruling comes in a voting rights lawsuit filed more than two years ago by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two Latino residents. Rice, of the Eastern District Court of Washington, ruled in August that the city’s hybrid election system of at-large and district voting routinely “suffocates” the will of Latino voters.Full Article: Yakima Herald Republic | Federal judge orders district voting for Yakima in ACLU case.
Editorials: The Mystery of Lower Voter Registration for Older Black Voters | Nate Cohn/New York Times
In December, I wrote an article titled “Evidence That the Jim Crow Era Endures for Older Black Voters in the South.” The article, based on voter registration and census data in Georgia, noted that older black voters who reached voting age before the passage of the Voting Rights Act were significantly less likely to be registered to vote compared with whites of similar age and black voters who reached voting age in the years afterward. The implication, I wrote, was that black registration and turnout rates were suppressed by the lingering effects of Jim Crow laws, which disenfranchised African-American voters. The evidence underlying that statement is research suggesting that voting is a habit. Therefore, someone with fewer opportunities to register and vote should be less likely to vote than a similar person who had more opportunities.Full Article: The Mystery of Lower Voter Registration for Older Black Voters - NYTimes.com.
Editorials: Mandatory Voting, Killing Electoral College Would Diversify Electorate | Stephen Wolf/The New Republic
The demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, over white police officer Darren Wilson’s fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, brought attention to a curious disparity. While two-thirds of the St. Louis suburb was black, its local government was almost entirely white. One culprit was simple: voter turnout. In the preceding local election, 6 percent of black voters cast ballots, compared to 17 percent of white voters, narrowly yielding a white-majority electorate. The resulting racial disparities on the city council were as predictable as they were dire. Two generations after the 1965 Voting Rights Act and other Great Society reforms, America’s electoral system still suffers from the legacy of Jim Crow: Our political officials and public policies don’t represent the diversity and interests of the country’s large and growing share of non-white citizens. Improving voter turnout is the most obvious solution to this problem, but doing so will require uncharacteristic boldness from our politicians. One of the biggest structural factors keeping turnout low is that the majority of cities nationwide—Ferguson included—hold elections at times that don’t coincide with federal or state elections. Since non-white voters skip non-presidential elections in higher numbers than white voters, moving local and state elections to the quadrennial presidential cycle would painlessly, efficiently increase turnout and produce a more representative electorate across the ballot. As a bonus, holding fewer elections would save money.Full Article: Mandatory Voting, Killing Electoral College Would Diversify Electorate | The New Republic.
Many people have understandably blamed low turnout for the Democratic Party‘s misfortune on Nov. 4, but some have gone a step further. They argue that turnout was so low because of voter suppression, particularly laws requiring voters to present photo identification. They assert that these laws disenfranchised enough voters to decide several elections, even a Kansas governor’s contest where a Republican won by four percentage points. Voter ID laws might well be a cynical, anti-democratic attempt to disenfranchise voters to help Republicans, as Democrats claim. But that doesn’t mean that voter ID laws are an effective way to steal elections. They just don’t make a difference in anything but the closest contests, when anything and everything matters. This may come as a surprise to those who have read articles hyperventilating about the laws. Dave Weigel at Slate in 2012 said a Pennsylvania voter identification law might disenfranchise 759,000 registered voters, a possibility he described as “an apocalypse.” Pennsylvania’s voter ID law was reversed before the election, but it is not hard to see why so many thought it could be decisive when Mr. Obama won the state with a 309,840 vote margin. But the so-called margin of disenfranchisement — the number of registered voters who do not appear to have photo identification — grossly overstates the potential electoral consequences of these laws.Full Article: Why Voter ID Laws Don’t Swing Many Elections - NYTimes.com.
His mailbox has been stuffed with campaign letters, his TV plastered with political ads. But Brian Wright of Louisville won’t be casting a ballot Tuesday in Kentucky’s election. He’s among an estimated 7.4 percent of voting-age Kentuckians — including 22.3 percent of black voting-age residents — barred from casting ballots because of a felony conviction, a disenfranchisement rate that is third-highest in the nation, according to the Sentencing Project, a reform advocacy group. “I want to have a voice,” said Wright, 33, who pleaded guilty in 2008 to drug possession, receiving five years of probation and losing the ability to vote. Kentucky is one of only four states where all felons permanently lose their right to vote unless it is restored by the governor, said Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project. He argued the state’s high exclusion rate is “quite likely to have a real impact on elections.”Full Article: Kentucky voting law leaves many out of election.
By this time next week we should know which party controls the Senate, if marijuana for medical use will be legal in Florida and if Rick Scott will be governor here for another four years. Voters will help decide those things. But more than five million voting-age tax-paying U.S. citizens will not be allowed to due to felony disenfranchisement. It’s an issue that affects 1 in 10 voting age residents in the state of Florida. 12 states restrict voting rights after felons have served their time and the sunshine state tops the list of people affected. “I made some bad choices in life,” said Keith Ivey. He served 8 1/2 years in prison for fraud. Ivey was released in January of 2012 but says he feels like his past continues to dictate his future. “I pay taxes, I run a business, but I have no voice,” said Ivey, who cannot vote.Full Article: Who has the right to vote?.
National: An estimated 5.9 million voting-age Americans won’t be able to vote next Tuesday | The Washington Post
Next Tuesday, tens of millions of Americans will take to the polls to vote on everything from ballot issues to federal, state and local representation. But millions of voting-age adults will be sitting this one out. An estimated 5.85 million Americans won’t be able to vote due to prior felony convictions, according to an estimate from the Sentencing Project, a criminal justice nonprofit think tank. Of those, roughly 44 percent are estimated to be felons who live in the 12 states that still restrict voting rights after sentences have been served, a practice that excludes as many as 1 in 10 voting-age residents of Florida, the state with the highest rates of felon disenfranchisement. Such policies have a disproportionate impact on blacks, restricting the vote for roughly 1 in 13 voting-age blacks nationwide.Full Article: An estimated 5.9 million voting-age Americans won’t be able to vote next Tuesday - The Washington Post.
Friday’s U.S. court ruling that breathed new life into Wisconsin’s voter ID law is a “recipe for chaos” that will cause “extraordinary disenfranchisement” this fall, voting rights advocates are warning as they push for a rehearing of the case. “If this law is not stopped now from being implemented in November, it will cause irreparable harm to the 300,000 plus voters who lack ID,” John Ulin, a lawyer for Arnold and Porter who represents plaintiffs in the case, told reporters Wednesday. Late Tuesday, challengers to the law filed court documents asking that the full 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals take a second look at Friday’s ruling reinstating the law. That ruling, the brief argues, “imposes a radical, last-minute change to procedures for conducting an election that is already underway.” Friday’s ruling was made by a three-judge panel of the court, all of whom were appointed by Republicans. The strict GOP-backed voter ID law had been on hold since not long after being passed in 2012, and was a struck down in April by a federal district court judge, who ruled that it violated the Voting Rights Act’s ban on racial discrimination in voting.Full Article: Reviving Wisconsin voter ID a 'recipe for chaos,' advocates warn | MSNBC.
District of Columbia: D.C.’s statehood movement gets an inch, takes a proverbial mile on Capitol Hill | The Washington Post
Along the walk underground from the Capitol to the Dirksen Senate Building, you traverse a long, soulless hallway with a mini train track. As the path curves around, a flag of each state hangs with a corresponding circular crest. Each state’s flag hangs in the order of its admission to the United States. Ten feet separate the flags from one another along the corridor where staffers and lawmakers shuffle between buildings. Imagine a proletariat’s version of the Kennedy Center’s Hall of States. It was in the Dirksen building that Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) held a hearing to discuss a bill granting D.C. statehood. A small step, yes, but an important one in the grind against disenfranchisement. It wasn’t much, but those who spoke for the city did so with aplomb. The case against statehood has never looked so ridiculous. The basic underpinnings of the cause to keep D.C. from statehood are rooted in nothing but privilege and tradition, not logic. And ranking member Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) proved exactly that with his cavalier attitude toward the proceedings, snarky dismissal of the city’s chances of making it through the system, and early departure from the hearing. His approach screamed: “I don’t care because I don’t have to.”Full Article: D.C.’s statehood movement gets an inch, takes a proverbial mile on Capitol Hill - The Washington Post.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is alleging that at least 282 ballots in the state’s June 3 primary election were not counted due to Alabama’s law requiring voters to show a valid photo identification card. In a letter dated today to Jean W. Brown, the Alabama Secretary of State’s chief legal adviser, the group raised concerns about disenfranchisement associated with the identification law during the primary election — the first statewide contest with the requirement. The organization obtained the figure after trying to contact election officials in each of Alabama’s 67 counties. Of the 49 counties that provided full or partial responses, the group determined that at least 282 voters “went uncounted solely due to the failure of otherwise eligible voters to provide ID,” according to the letter. The group’s figures included six in-person provisional ballots uncounted due to no photo identification and another 276 that were labeled as uncounted absentee ballots lacking an ID card.Full Article: Alabama's voter ID law blamed for at least 282 ballots uncounted in primary | AL.com.
Lawyers from the Justice Department and a variety of civic groups appeared at an Asheville, North Carolina, federal courthouse this week, seeking an injunction that would delay portions of a state voting law from going into effect before the midterm elections this November. At issue are a reduction in days for early voting, the elimination of same-day voter registration and a prohibition on counting provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct. (The most controversial provision, a photo ID requirement, does not go into effect until 2016.) Now a judge will decide if those elements should be delayed or implemented at all.Full Article: Do voting restrictions prevent fraud or cause disenfranchisement? | Al Jazeera America.
When Alan Langley, a Republican member of the local elections board here, explains a new proposal to consolidate five voting precincts into two, it sounds procedural and well-meaning: He speaks of convenient parking and wheelchair access at the proposed polling places, and of saving more than $10,000 per election. Those precincts, however, are rich with black voters who generally vote Democratic. And when the Rev. Dante Murphy, the president of the Cleveland County N.A.A.C.P. chapter, discusses the plan, he talks of “disenfranchisement” and “conspiracy.” “We know,” Mr. Murphy said, “that this is part of a bigger trend — a movement to suppress people’s right to vote.”Full Article: Mistrust in North Carolina Over Plan to Reduce Precincts - NYTimes.com.
One of the ugliest stains on democracy in this country is the fact that an estimated 2.6 million Americans who have committed a felony are not allowed to vote — even after they have served their sentence. This mass disenfranchisement disproportionately afflicts minority, especially black, communities. Until recently, almost no prominent Republicans cared to address the problem, seeing little political advantage in registering former inmates — especially minorities — whom they regarded as a largely Democratic electorate. In a dozen mostly GOP-tilting states, some or all felons remain barred from voting even after finishing with parole and probation.Full Article: Washington Post: Restoring the ballot | The Salt Lake Tribune.
At least 12 Iowa residents wrongly had their ballots rejected in the 2012 presidential election because of inaccuracies in the state’s list of ineligible felons, a review found Friday. Secretary of State Matt Schultz announced that nine additional cases of improper disenfranchisement were found during a review launched after it was reported in January that three voters were disenfranchised because of bureaucratic mistakes. The new cases include people who weren’t felons but were wrongly included on the list and former offenders who had their voting rights restored and should have been removed.Full Article: Iowa finds 12 votes were wrongly rejected in 2012 » Southeast Iowa » The Ottumwa Courier.
District of Columbia: It’s Disenfranchisement When Independents Can’t Vote in Primaries | The Daily Beast
District of Columbia voters went to the polls Tuesday, a few of them anyway, to vote in mayoral and city council primary elections. Unfortunately, although I am a Washington resident, I was not one of them. My non-participation wasn’t due to a lack of interest but because I am an Independent voter. The DC Board of Elections officially lists my party affiliation as “No Party.” It’s a non-affiliation I claim proudly but it comes with a price. Like many millions of other unaffiliated voters around the country I am prevented from exercising the right to vote in partisan primary elections. The outcome of Tuesday’s election will have a significant impact on the future direction of the city and I would have liked to weigh in. Current Mayor Vincent Gray is facing probable indictment on corruption charges—five people who were connected with his 2010 campaign have already pleaded guilty to felonies related to that campaign.Full Article: It’s Disenfranchisement When Independents Can’t Vote in Primaries - The Daily Beast.
In Florida, more than one in five black adults can’t vote. Not because they lack citizenship or haven’t registered, but because they have, at some point, been convicted of a felony. The Sunshine State’s not alone. As in Florida, more than 20 percent of black adults have lost their right to vote in Kentucky and Virginia, too, according to the Sentencing Project, a group that advocates for reforms to sentencing policy that reduces racial disparities. Three states — Florida, Iowa and Kentucky — ban anyone who has ever received a felony conviction from voting. But many other states have weaker disenfranchisement laws—ones that ban those currently serving sentences or those on parole or probation. And Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday called on them to rethink the “unnecessary and unjust” policies.Full Article: How felon voting policies restrict the black vote.